Book Review: Through a Glass Darkly, by Jostein Gaarder

Through a Glass Darkly is the young girl Cecelia’s end of life story. It is almost Christmas and Cecelia lies sick in bed, as her family strive to make Christmas as special as possible. She is angry and resentful. One evening, an angel steps through her window, and introduces itself – and so begins a series of conversations between them both. As she thinks about her life and death, she changes subtly, in herself and in her relationship with her family.

Jostein Gaarder has a real gift for writing from a child’s point of view. The sense of innocence, curiosity and wonder is revealed in these tender conversations that take place. The phrases or ideas that Cecelia savours are noted down in the notebook that is kept under her bed. When she is too ill to write, her grandmother acts as scribe. It would be a treasure to have those simple wisdoms. My own favourite is:

We see everything through a glass darkly. Sometimes we peer through the glass and catch a glimpse of what it is on the other side if we were to polish the glass clean we’d see much more. But then we would no longer see ourselves.

Through A Glass Darkly is based on Christian faith, but there are lessons for humanity. There is a cost to a loss of innocence, and this is part of the magic of Gaarder’s tale, as you suspend the judgements of an adult mind.

I have simply lost count of the number of times that I read this book. The ending of 2016 was quite tricky emotionally, and this is one of my ‘go to’ books for a little dose of inspiration. It is the spoonful of sugar. It concernsĀ death and dying, but it is an uplifting story. I expect that it won’t be the last time I read it.

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